Yogurt Maker. Author. Mom.

The following is a very abridged version of the introduction to my book, Yogurt & Whey.

I am Zoroastrian, the ancient culture and religion of the Persian Empire. My family is from a cluster of Zoroastrian villages in the county of Yazd, a desert region located in the center of modern-day Iran. My dad is from the village of Mobarakeh, and my mom is from the village of Ali-Abad.

Though I spent most of my childhood in Tehran, our villages in Yazd were always home. The village of Mobarakeh, where we still have a home, is composed of a few dozen mud and straw houses. Each house has an open-air garden in the middle that children play in and herbs and trees grow in. On summer nights, to escape the heat, we’d climb up to the roof with our thin mattresses and sleep between the rolling bumps molded in the rooftop. As the sun set, the air finally cooled, but the mud rooftops still radiated heat.

My family moved to Southern California in the mid-80s, where an enclave of Zoroastrians had flocked together. We enrolled in school and rented an apartment. My mom found a secretarial job; my dad secured a landscaping gig. I tried to assimilate to the lunchroom culture by enthusiastically embracing Ding Dongs and chocolate milk.

At nine years of age, just a year after moving to the States, I decided I’d become a lawyer. I loved the idea of writing contracts—of putting your black-and-white expectations on paper—and the respect that attorneys seemed to receive. In the legal field, my naive impression was that you were judged on intellect and accomplishment.

I chased every extra-credit point and did every extracurricular activity I could find in order to boost my résumé and chances to making that dream a reality. I studied literature and languages at UCLA and went to Cornell Law School on a scholarship. After graduation I landed a coveted six-figure-salary job, the kind that opened doors and changed lives. I clocked in hundred-hour weeks at a top-five law firm. I didn’t love the actual work, but I loved being a lawyer. I loved the wardrobe and the intensity. I loved the money and the privilege that I had been so hungry to taste.

Then, when the economy tanked in 2008, I was laid off.

And while my hardcore personality pushed me to get back to work, back on the fast track, something else in me was reluctant to continue being an attorney. I couldn’t recapture the mad drive that had propelled my life until that point. Every success, both in my life and in my career, seemed superficial. I was thirty-one and, for the first time, I stepped off the track. And all I felt was relief.

My family had always made yogurt from scratch. I had thought we made it at home only because we were cheap and didn’t trust store-bought products, but I realized we also did it because it was comforting. Yogurt forces you to slow down. It takes a long time for the milk to boil—and an even longer time for the milk to cool. And in that time, everything feels better.

All those hours spent boiling the milk, cooling it down, and straining the yogurt allowed my father and me to have endless cups of tea and conversations. I got to know him as an individual with stories and opinions and tastes. Amid discussion of flavors, he’d share long-forgotten stories of his sandwich shop back in Tehran. This sandwich shop defined my dad for most of my childhood.

And it was in those conversations that my yogurt company, The White Moustache, was born.

We show up with four gallons of plain yogurt on our first day at the farmers’ market in Huntington Beach. We made twelve dollars— the sweetest twelve dollars I had ever made. I felt, for the first time, that I’d earned my pay. I was hooked.

And then my eight-gallon-a-week yogurt was shut down. It’s a long story involving dairy rules and regulations. The short version is that I fought the law and the law won.

I won’t bother with that here but The Economist does does a good job explaining what happened.

What is important is that as 2013 neared, I was broke, and broken. I felt heartsick that I hadn’t made a single batch of yogurt since I began fighting to save the business. I had finally found something that made me make sense in America, something that I could contribute, and here was America shutting me out again. After two years of what felt like screaming in the wind, I had no viable plan to make my business work.

On a whim, I called up an old friend, Betsy Devine, who owns Salvatore BKLYN, makers of artisan ricotta. I asked if we could make one batch of yogurt in her space in Brooklyn as a final attempt to breathe life back into The White Moustache before I moved on. Betsy said yes, and my family and I hopped on a plane to New York. We made a batch during a blizzard in January 2013. I divvied up the batch and took it to four of the top grocery stores in New York City.

After tasting our product, they all put in an order. The White Moustache was reborn.

And that, more or less, is part of my story and part of why I wrote Yogurt & Whey. I’m also a mom and married to a man with whom I’m trying to start a cultural retreat.

I’m saving those stories for another day.